19 Dec, 2017 Te Tiriti o Waitangi – how to overcome cultural mistrust

With Waitangi weekend just a few weeks away, here is an annual reflection – but it is no small one, and for this reason I have divided it into two blogs.

If your heart is open to it – I encourage that you find the 10 to 15 minutes needed to digest these.


I’m often surprised at how little knowledge exists in our nation about our early bicultural history and the Treaty that resulted. The fact that most non-Māori don’t know much isn’t surprising. But the fact that a great many Māori also know very little is! Numerous times I’ve found myself surprised by who doesn’t know what – and this is a problem for the work of the gospel in Aotearoa. So, who is going to bring the change?

As an example, with all the talk and Tikanga Māori/protocol being taught and embraced in some schools and public circles, you’d almost think they cared about the Treaty. But I’m increasingly aware that many teachers have been told what to teach, and what to do. Things are done because things are expected. The embracing of certain bicultural practices do not mean that convictions are personally held or even really understood. Many state the ‘party line’ and make few comments. I’ve discovered that it doesn’t necessarily mean very much.


What I’m saying is…

Bicultural appreciation – I think the Church could help lead here!


…and there are reasons to lead too!

  1. A matter of justice

Our Christian forefathers – including both Māori and non-Māori (noting there are many amazing races with amazing histories in our nation) were central in establishing this Treaty. It’s benevolent dictates came directly from a Christian humanitarian movement in England. There is a lot for us to lay claim to here as Christians – along with an obligation to support it. We also have every reason to be passionate about this from a moral, truth and justice point of view. (See the story of the Gibeonites in Joshua 9, then 2 Samuel 21 – and draw the comparison). It is about what is right!


  1. A matter of the gospel, and of restoration

Many have never heard about the positive impact of the gospel within our nation’s history. If we learn and tell stories about the early bicultural relationships between Māori and missionaries, many will benefit from this – including Māori. This has certainly been the testimony of the Hope Project. A number of churches have told us of an increase in Māori visiting their churches the past few years. Simply telling these stories can be restorative!

Secondly, I also note that there is a ‘prophetic’ element to this for many church leaders around our nation. Many believe Māori will one-day again lead our nation in the things of the gospel. Quite a few people have told me of visions or dreams they have had about this – and I know of a few groups that exist singularly because of this conviction.  

But it also needs noting that a true restoration is going to take a lot more than this.

It remains that many Māori are instinctively untrusting of non-Māori and their ways. This is unavoidably a factor behind the limited attendance by Māori in many local churches – though we all hope this is changing. And if we reflect for a moment, it doesn’t take long to see that there have been many good reasons for this mistrust – with a long history behind them! So how will it change?


What can we do to break through the cultural mistrust?

1. How about encouraging some basic reading/learning? 

  • There are a range of books available – including a home-grown easy-to-read  illustrated history series that almost anyone could get through. These can communicate important historical perspectives that make a difference to how we view our nation (biculturalism), and the place of Christianity within it. 
  • Strengthening this foundational perspective is essential if we are to gain greater empathy as the Church with what is happening in our nation, so as to then be able to respond in a timely manner.

2. How about local pastors gather as groups to hear the local (Māori) story?

  • A few pastors’ groups have already done this, approaching local Marae, and asking to be welcomed onto their Marae with the singular goal of hearing their story.
  • Through this, most will discover history and perspectives that they were unaware of – because Māori often do not entrust these stories to ‘Pākehā’. There is long history behind this.
  • We won’t know what we don’t know unless we stop to ask, and then sit humbly to listen!

3. How about then embracing some practices that might reflect a valuing of our bicultural identity?

I’m not suggestion anything extreme, like sermons in Te Reo that no one can understand. But how about a few small things? 

  • Language: How about an occasional greeting in Te Reo when you stand to speak – and especially if your have Māori in your congregation?
  • Karakia in Te Reo: How about a short grace/karakia at a meal that you memorise in Te Reo that the congregation (or leadership) is also then taught? (This knowledge is a door-opener in other contexts – so practice and equip your members with intentionality!)
    • One that I have memorised is as follows – however I cannot vouch for the spelling because I learnt it orally through repetition: “Ma te Atua. Manakia mai enei kai kia matou. E inoi atu ana i roto i te Ingoa Tapu o te Ariki, Amine.” (And I’ll happily update this if someone emails me to correct spelling and wording).
  • Waiata: How about occasionally including one or two simple songs that are bilingual – like the National Anthem bilingually, or ‘Wairua Tapu /Welcome here’? This would be especially appropriate near Waitangi Day.
  • Stories: Then there are the faith stories you can tell in your sermons both from your reading of books or illustrated history stories (referred to above), as well as from the local stories your local Kaumatua have entrusted to you because you stopped to sit, build relationship, ask and listen.
  • Honouring local Kaumatua: Then, if there is a significant occasion with guests coming from far and wide, how about asking local Kaumatua (who you now know because you took time to ask, sit and listen) to honour you with their presence and a Pōwhiri or blessing, with inclusion of a little of the local story?



Note: Bicultural or multicultural? These are not in conflict!

  • ‘Bicultural’ – this is our constitutional identity, affecting protocol in formal gatherings, and in greetings, laws and language.
  • ‘Multicultural’ – this is our daily relational reality, with sensitivity to each individual.

It is the same as being a ‘Christian’ nation while also being a ‘multi-religious’ nation. The former rightly affects public gatherings and protocol, while the latter requires sensitivity when relating to each individual.

Bringing clarity to these ‘identity’ definitions in the public square is important both for Maori, and the future of the gospel in our nation. This can be discussed further another time. We have work to do here.


4. Then – lets start making some stories known in our communities!

My point here is that we can become advocates for a revering and respecting of this story. This way it isn’t only the local Iwi who will value it. This goes toward changing wider cultural values – and nationally-so if pastors’ groups in our largest 70 cities and towns likewise choose to take this journey.

(i) How about gifting the ‘Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of Waitangi’ illustrated history series to all local schools and libraries as a sample (but only after you and your elders board read it first)?

This could be done while noting that there are free teachers resources for the classroom to go with this series at www.bigbook.nz. (These were further updated, with a dozen other stories also existing in the series, for use in schools following the introduction of the 2022 NZ history curriculum for schools). Gifting one set would be like a sample, because a classroom would need more than one copy. And the suggestion is for classroom use (rather than placement in the library) is because we would hope for some important perspectives contained in this unique series to be gained by many!

See BigBook.nz


(ii)  How about telling stories you learn in talks you give in the public square?

  • These stories are  ‘common ground’ and will endear respect toward the wider faith message you will probably be seeking to encourage.


I hope this is helpful.

In the next blog I will write about three cultural changes I see taking place in our bicultural landscape currently (2017). Some may find these harder to digest – but these is no way around the fact that things are changing, and will change more. The Church will be better able to respond if it can better appreciate what happening.

An illustration of it’s importance:
The time to get on a train is when it pulls into the station. Otherwise you have to catch the next train – and will arrive late at a dinner table at which an important conversation is taking place.

We are in the midst of some significant bicultural changes in our nation –  and this is a conversation we would wise to not be late for!


Closing questions

What could you do to value things-Māori a bit more?

Are you open to approaching local Iwi, to hear stories – while also learning from books that are available?

What do you think of the idea of gifting the ‘Treaty’ series to your your local schools, with the encouragement that they consider this as a classroom resource?

Also, Waitangi Day is 6th February. What will you say or do on that days, or on the Sunday at church to recognise it?



5 self-print bulletin-booklets for your church 

  • Called ‘Then and Now’ – about outreach and our early bicultural story, to give to church members with the bulletin over a 5 week period here (These booklet also encourager support of the Hope Project – which takes some of these stories to the public square).


An easy-to-read option to educate yourself, elders, children’s and youth leaders – and then all members (children, youth and adults)

  • Consider the illustrated novel series: ‘The Chronicles of Paki – Treaty of  Waitangi Series’. These can be found at BigBook.nz. View a blog with displaying some of its endorsements here.


Waitangi weekend sermon outlines (free)

  • ‘Three Treaties’ (Gibeonites, Waitangi and Jesus) from Dave Mann is (word doc) here, with power point here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Leaving a legacy’ – edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc)  here
  • Waitangi Weekend sermon – ‘Joshua and the Treaty (five treatise)’ –  edited – with thanks to Keith Harrington (word doc) here

The Te Reo Pulpit Challenge



DAVE MANN. Dave is a creative communicator with a vision to see an understanding of the Christian faith continuing, and also being valued, in the public square in Aotearoa-New Zealand. He has innovated numerous conversational resources for churches, and is currently coordinated a 4th nationwide multimedia project purposed to help open conversation between church and non-church people about Christianity and the way our nation’s most treasured values have come from it. Dave is the author of various books and booklets including “Because we care”, “That Leaders might last”, “The Elephant in the Room”, and available for free on this site: “The What and How of Youth and Young Adult ministry”. 

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